BASIC CULTURE OF GROWING AFRICAN VIOLETS

by Dixie Williams
Fox Valley African Violet Society

Light

Fluorescent light - You will need two 40-watt bulbs per shelf, spaced approximately 10" apart depending on the depth of your shelf. Cool White, Wide Spectrum or Gro-Lux bulbs are the most economical and will get the best results for blooming. Or you may use a combination of them also. If you are looking for truer colors for your blossoms, try Powertwist, Verilux Tru Bloom or Tru Lite bulbs. Lights should be on timers and on for 10-12 hours a day. The plants need 8 hours of complete darkness each day. Varieties with darker foliage prefer the center of the lights. Those with lighter foliage on the outside edge of shelves. Variegates prefer the bottom shelves, where the temperature is lower. Lights should be 10-12" above standard plants and 6-8" above miniature or semiminiature plants. These are only guidelines. You need to experiment with what works for you.

Natural light - Select a window that receives morning sun or has a tree outside to filter the sun. For southern or western exposures, use light filtering curtains or shades on bright, sunny days. Raise or open them on rainy cloudy days. Cut back on fertilizer during the hottest summer months. To prevent burn spots, be careful not to get water droplets on leaves. Rotate the plants turn in the same direction every week to maintain symmetry.

Water

You may top water or bottom water, whichever you prefer. If you bottom water, plants should not sit in water more than 20-30 minutes. Then you will need to dump the remaining water out of saucers or trays. I use Reverse Osmosis water rather than tap water, but if you use tap water, be sure you let your jug of water sit opened for at least 24 hours to get the chlorine out of the water. If you consistently bottom water and do not repot on a regular schedule, you should flush your plants with non-fertilized water from the top at least once a month to wash fertilizer salts through the pot. NEVER USE SOFTENED WATER.

Soil

Soilless mixes

Growing To Show soil recipe and mine

5 qts. peat moss
4 qts. perlite
3 qts. vermiculite
1 cup charcoal (optional)
1 tablespoon superphosphate 0-20-0
2½ Tbsp. dolomite lime (whatever it takes to get correct PH)
2 qts. reverse osmosis water

Ernie Fisher recipe

8 qts. Peat moss
2 qts. Perlite
2 qts. Vermiculite
2 qts. Charcoal
2 qts. Topsoil
1 cup bonemeal
1 tbsp. Ferbam fungicide

Of course, you can buy your soil instead of making it and alter it any way that suits you. I, personally, don't like any fertilizer in my soil as I put fertilizer in my water and if you use both, your plants would be over-fertilized. Most store-bought soil is too heavy for me. And I would caution you that if you buy it in a store, be sure there are no holes in the bag, as it could have bugs in it. If you find that, I would advise sterilizing the soil (300° for 15 minutes).

Food

I use several different kinds of fertilizer, changing every so often. I like Peter's 20-20-20 (10% or less urea nitrogen) for starting my leaves and for maybe a month after I repot. That gives the roots a good start. Then I will switch to Peter's Specialties 12-36-14. When I am ready to get my plants ready for a show, I feed with Schultz' 10-60-10. Variegates prefer a higher middle number so they don't get too green or lose their variegation. I use tsp. per gallon of water. I would use 1/8 tsp. if you wick.

Propagation

Select a leaf that is not too old or too young. Although, just about any leaf will produce plantlets. For a variegated plant, choose a greener leaf rather than a highly variegated one. Cut the petiole at a 45 degree angle (cut side facing up) about 1"-1 " from bottom of leaf. The sharper the angle, you will get more, but weaker plantlets. A lesser angle will give you fewer plantlets, but stronger ones. I use my regular potting soil to start them and keep them quite wet to start out. I bag or dome my leaf to keep the humidity in. You can also start leaves in water. Make sure you label your pot and put the date on it.

Plantlets should begin to appear in a couple of months. If you have a large mother leaf and it has been growing all this time, you might want to cut off the top 1/3 of the leaf so it will stop growing and put more energy into the babies. Within 3-5 months after the plantlets appear, they should be ready to separate and pot into their own individual pot. Rule of thumb is, when you have at least three nickel sized leaves, you can separate, but many times, I let them get larger than that. If you can see how many plantlets you have and want to keep all of them, you can wait until they all have three nickel sized leaves.

I then pot them all up into a 2" pot, label and date each one. After it has outgrown its pot, you will then need to pot up again. Remember, the pot size should be 1/3 the size of the diameter of the leaves. Although, when I know a standard is a pretty fast grower, I will put it in a bigger pot knowing it will fill it up before I need to repot again. A miniature should never be in a pot bigger than 2", a semiminiature in a 2 " and a standard and large in 3" and up. I repot all mini's every three months and all standards every six months. Sometimes I will pot earlier than that if I taken several leaves off of the plant and I have a neck on it. It will then need to be potted down.

When the neck is "-¾", the plant needs to be potted down. Take the plant out of the pot and scrape the neck to get all the dead stubble off. Remove about " of the soil from the top and cut off from the bottom at least the length the neck is. Loosen the roots slightly if they are quite tight. Choose the right size pot and put a little new soil in the bottom and then place plant in pot and fill sides and top with new soil. Lightly tap down. Water lightly so it doesn't go into shock. Make sure the bottom leaves are level with the top of the pot.

Also, when repotting, the plant shouldn't be too dry or too wet. When dry, the plant will be limp and hard to work with, and wet, the leaves may break off easily.

Also, remember that what works for one person may not work for you. Everyone's growing conditions are different. You just need to experiment to see what works for you.

Happy Growing!
 




Webmaster: Joe Bruns webmaster@iavs-online.org